In four minutes, College of San Mateo showed off all three facets of its game — and what a remarkable showing it was.
The Bulldogs (2-0 overall) hadn’t played a game on their home field since Nov. 30, 2019 — a 41-0 victory over Modesto Junior College in the California Community College Athletic Association Northern California championship game — and celebrated their return to Bulldog Stadium in style Saturday afternoon, defeating College of the Sequoias (0-2) by the same score of 41-0.
While CSM’s offense and special teams struggled to find their footing in the first half, the opening four minutes of the second half were a different story.
“We came out with some energy, that was the biggest thing,” CSM quarterback Luke Bottari said. “We came out with a lot of energy, a lot of juice, and defense gave us the ball back and we were able to put it in the [end zone] a couple times.”
The Bulldogs recovered a fumble on the opening play of the second half; Bottari connected with running back J’Wan Evans for a 30-yard touchdown pass on the following play; then after a Sequoias three-and-out — featuring two CSM sacks by linebackers Hame Vea and Demarii Blanks — the Bulldogs recovered a botched snap on the punt at the Sequoias’ 5 and Bottari cashed in on the next play with a 5-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Jalen Lampley, nearly doubling CSM’s lead with 11:05 to play in the third quarter.
The dizzying showing didn’t stop there. The CSM defense forced another three-and-out — courtesy of a third-down sack by Vea and sophomore Noah Lavulo — then the Bulldogs blocked a punt to give the offense prime field position in the red zone. Four plays later, sophomore running back Darrell Page hammered in a 2-yard scoring run to make it 34-0 with 8:18 remaining in the quarter.
Bottari finished the day 11-of-17 passing for 191 yards and three touchdowns — including a dazzling 87-yard scoring strike to sophomore Mason Starling with six minutes remaining in the first half — as the long-touted underdog quarterback helms a mostly sophomore offense that is more seasoned than the last time the lineup played in front of its home crowd as freshmen in 2019.
“The difference between  and this year is everybody is in their second year on the offense,” Bottari said. “There were a lot of true freshmen playing last year, it was [offensive coordinator Mike] Dovenberg’s first year, so it’s just a lot more experience under our belt and we have a lot more confidence in what we’re doing.”
The addition of Evans to the backfield has been a big boost as well. A transfer freshman, Evans had four touches during CSM’s first two drives, including an 8-yard touchdown run off tackle to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Evans’ 30-yard scoring catch to open the second half was a thing of beauty. The play-action screen pass saw Evans float out of the backfield to the left and find himself all alone in the flat. It was a sign of the explosive third quarter to come as CSM made critical adjustments in the halftime locker room, and exploited Sequoias’ tendency to pull its free safety early to counter the rush. So, when the Bulldogs faked the run to the right, it left a wide-open left side for Evans to score.
“Going into halftime we drew some stuff up, we talked about it, and we came out a lot more confident in the second half,” Evans said. “We knew what we was going to do and we went with it; and there you go.”
Make no mistake, though. The Bulldogs’ defense served not only as the backbone of Saturday’s win but has been nearly flawless through the first two weeks of the season. Prior to shutting out Sequoias, CSM opened the season with a 45-5 victory the previous Saturday in Santa Rosa. The Bulldogs have yet to surrender a touchdown this season.
Against Sequoias, the Bulldogs put on a defensive clinic, totaling nine sacks, a pair of interceptions by Rufus Lovelace and Ryan Cooper Jr., and two fumble recoveries.
Blanks and freshman Taniela Latu totaled two sacks apiece. Blanks has been perhaps the biggest surprise, having converted this season from running back to linebacker. Through the first two games he has ever played at linebacker in his life, Blanks has totaled 10 tackles and three sacks.
“I think it came down to I’d rather just hit people than get hit,” Blanks said. “That’s how I flip that switch.”
CSM doubles down to play at home again this coming Saturday. The Bulldogs are set to host Butte College. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.